Written by: Amy Bohl, LAT with Agnesian Bone & Joint Health
How many of us wake up tired each morning? Most of us probably think about going to bed earlier or look forward to the weekend when we can “catch up” on sleep. Unfortunately, lost sleep over several days or a week cannot be made up by one long period of sleeping. Enough sleep is just as important for good health as nutrition and exercise.
Athletes should focus on utilizing good sleep habits to maximize sleep. Strategies for good sleep include:
- The bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. Try running a fan in your room for white noise or use ear plugs if you wake up to small noises. A room temperature of 65-68 degrees is ideal and can help you fall asleep faster.
- Establish a good sleep routine by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time.
- Unplug at night. Avoid watching television in bed, using the computer in bed and avoid watching the clock. Put electronics away!
- Limit caffeine intake. Avoid caffeine approximately 4-5 hours prior to sleep (this may vary among individuals). Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, so if you have a specialty coffee drink (63-175 mg caffeine) at 3 p.m., by 9 p.m. you still have up to a shot worth of espresso (47-75 mg of caffeine) in your system.
- Napping can be useful; however, naps should generally be kept to less than one hour and not too close to bedtime as it may interfere with sleep.
- Calm your brain – don’t worry about things you can’t change or do anything about until morning.
Many pro athletes sleep 10-12 hours/day with practices and travel to and from games scheduled to accommodate rest and recovery. For adults 7.5-8 hours of sleep is optimal. It is recommended that 7-12 year olds get 10-11 hours of sleep per night and 12-18 year olds get 8-9 hours of sleep.
Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. The price of sleep debt includes:
- Slower reaction time
- Poor balance and coordination
- Missed signals in your visual field
- Increased irritability
- Greater propensity to getting sick
- More inflammation: slower healing from injuries
- Duller memory
- Burnout, exhaustion, and depression